By Brian Acton
When you’re really on a roll with working out, it can be tempting to skip your rest day and jump into the next session. But rest days are a common staple of exercise programs for good reason - resting conveys benefits that help your body recover and prepare for the next activity.
Here’s why resting your body after exercise is important.
The Definition of Rest
First, let’s clarify that rest can change based on the nature of your workout. Some weight training programs recommend working out the entire body one day, then resting on the following day. Alternatively, you could work out your lower body on day one, then give your legs a rest the next day as you work out your upper body. At minimum, it’s a good idea to give your muscles 24 - 48 hours to recover before training them again.
But the above method doesn’t apply to every type of exercise. Runners, for example, may run several days in a row and only take one or two rest days per week. But they can alternate days of intense running with “rest days” of easier runs.
The best way to rest your body after exercise depends on your goals and the exercise you’re doing. But rest is an important factor in any exercise program.
The Benefits of Resting
There are many key benefits to resting your body after exercise.
- Exercising puts stress on your body, and it needs time to recover (for example, lifting weights tears muscle fibers). Your body needs a period of rest for your immune system to repair and for your muscles to grow.
- Working out too hard can lead to overtraining. Pushing your body too far without a break can cause joint or muscle overuse injuries.
- Intense exercise causes delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), gradually increasing muscle discomfort that peaks within 24 to 48 hours after your workout. If you try to jump into intense exercise without giving your body time to recover from DOMS, you could put yourself out of commission for much longer.
- If all your days involve intense exercise, it can be tough to stay committed. Resting can help you recover mentally and stick to an exercise regimen.
Tips for Resting After Exercise
Here are some tips for proper rest and recovery:
- Customize your rest schedule to your workout. You may want to alternate targeted muscle groups each day or give your body an entire day off. You may want to switch up the cardio activity you do. Change up your rest schedule based on your workout.
- Gradually increase intensity. If you’re jumping into a new type of exercise or you try to work too hard, your body will take longer to recover. Gradually increasing the intensity and/or duration of your exercise will help you keep from overdoing it and allow your body to recover faster.
- Define what rest means to you. Rest days don’t have to involve laying on the couch all day. You can do a simple, low-impact activity of lower intensity - such as hiking, going for an easy bike ride, or playing outside - that isn’t as intense.